Justice League #2 sees threats multiply and our heroes ask a lot of questions. Are there enough answers to keep this reader hooked? Find out below…
Is there anything more wonderfully clichéd than the sight of a newsreader filling you in on what happened last issue? If you’re a writer, you’ve got to love it, really. You get to infodump straight into the reader’s head without him really noticing. What Bryan Hitch does on page 1 of this issue, though, takes things one step further. When his newsreader starts speaking in red and urges his viewers to “rise up”, I must confess a frisson of fear, the palpable sense of the uncanny, ran through me.
It’s a shame, then, that we don’t see or hear from the possessed anchorman again. There’s simply too much spectacle to take in and epic, giant threats to deal with. Or, more accurately, talk about dealing with. Or, more accurately still, wonder if they can be dealt with in the first place.
I can see what Hitch is driving at here. There are three separate (but apparently linked in ways about which we don’t even have a clue as yet) phenomena that the League is investigating and each one of them needs to be presented in a dramatic, engaging way. Morrison used to do this kind of thing quite often in his run, but he usually managed to at least hint at the ways the different elements of his stories were related. Hitch fails on this score.
What we get are moments of potential drama that are never quite realised. Towards the end of the last issue, both the GLs and the Flash had their powers… interfered with. What’s the effect of that little tension-building device? They get their powers back only to lose them briefly again a few pages later. And then they get them back again. A more pointless sequence of events it is difficult to imagine, although it could have been played for real drama and/or pathos.
The nadir of this section is when Simon Baz returns to consciousness a few moments after his powers were taken from him while he was in the middle of dealing with a tsunami about to hit Hong Kong. When he asks Jessica what happened to the water, she responds with an almost glib “Took care of it.” as if holding back a massive wall of seawater and saving thousands of people were a small thing not worthy of discussion or, for that matter, being drawn in even one panel of this comic book. To say that’s a missed opportunity – particularly given Jessica’s frequently-highlighted insecurity about her status as a Green Lantern – is an understatement. The story is too focused on the big stuff to fully take account of the smaller details that can elevate an issue from just serviceable to truly memorable.
The Flash helps Batman deal with the bio-missile and its flying insectoid payload in Gotham. I’m beginning to think that Tony Daniel really loves the Flash. Once again, he depicts the Flash’s speed with considerable creativity and, once again, I’m genuinely impressed and not a little excited by it. It’s a very nice section.
While Aquaman’s stuck in Atlantis listening to some singing rock sculptures (I kid you not), the rest of the League (without Superman at this point) gather to discuss the crisis, the story slows down and a number of problems present themselves. Firstly, this is a very unsure Justice League. While, in principle, I quite like the idea of the League talking things through, these guys take a relatively long time to come to any decision and seem to be very tentative. To be fair, there’s a lot to talk about: Cyborg’s found objects that are five miles across (remember that detail) buried in the Earth’s outer core; The Flash and the GLs talk about their stolen powers; and Wonder Woman relates her experience with the Russian soldiers. The one thing that isn’t discussed in much detail is the bio-missile in Gotham. This is because the Leaguers don’t need to talk about it, because the Watchtower satellite is about to get hit by one and hundreds more are about to invade the Earth. Nice.
This conference between the League is a good idea, but Hitch manages to present the heroes as being unable to think without speaking first. Everyone asks questions of everyone else and, in the process, pretty much everyone manages to make themselves look almost ludicrously unsure of their abilities and those of their team mates. Could the GLs survive a trip to the Earth’s core? Simon thinks so, but Cyborg disagrees. (There’s probably lots of yellow down there.) Can Jessica “do something remotely with her ring”? (This might be the most inadvertently amusing line of the book.) The League take three pages to realise they might need to get Superman on board, but by then it’s too late because we’ve got an alien invasion to take care of, as, portrayed by a typically impressive piece of Tony Daniel artwork, the Earth is surrounded by a swarm of the bio-missiles last seen chasing down unsuspecting Gothamites.
And… we don’t get to see the League clear the Watchtower. I’m a sci-fi fan of a certain age. The words “Hull breach on Deck Four” are almost guaranteed to get me salivating, but, for crying out loud, you’ve got to follow up on it somehow. Instead, most of the League depart by teleporter, leaving Cyborg to deal with the attack off panel. I get that Hitch is invested in the idea of single League members dealing with parts of a larger threat – or, more accurately, series of threats – but those resolutions should at least be shown.
Instead, we get… Atlantis, again. Aquaman, singing stones, a helpful guard who tells him they’re called Zodiac Crystals and are from a museum – clearly a place Aquaman has never visited, even on one of those rainy (choppy?) Monday afternoons when you’re bored and there’s nothing else to do, but pack a lunchbox of soggy sandwiches and wander around the local public amenities for a bit. We do get to see a development, though. The possessed people are merging together and forming a giant, humanoid, glowing creature. Hurrah for giant, humanoid, glowing creatures! I knew the comic was missing something and giant, humanoid, glowing creatures, in lieu of a plot that actually hangs together, must be it!
Sorry about that. The comic ends with a conversation. Admittedly, it is reasonably well-scripted – and the last line is a great one – but, even so. This is an issue in which talking has been favoured over meaningful action time and time again. Not that that’s necessarily a terrible thing, but, in this case, the talking has either been poorly constructed or conceived. Or comprises none-too-subtle infodumps, the rather groovy infodump on the first page excepted.
The art can’t be faulted. Daniel’s doing his best here and his Superman is absolutely awesome, but his artwork can’t disguise the fact that there have been some curious storytelling decisions here. The story can perhaps best be summed up as “The League tries to work things out. And hasn’t succeeded by the time the story ends.” There is a balance to be struck, of course. We’re only on part 2 of a multi-part story, and I’m not suggesting that Hitch should play all his cards at once, but we need more than what we’re getting here. A beautifully drawn, but nevertheless slightly disappointing issue.